Peter Ackroyd’s biography of silent film legend Charlie Chaplin is a mixture of film criticism and biography, and while brief at just over 300 pages, is a somewhat unsympathetic portrait combined with wonderful passages that offer windows into the early years of the American movie industry and the life of a man who created and shaped a legendary character during those years into an enduring cultural image.
Beginning with Chaplin’s troubled and impoverished childhood in London, Ackroyd walks us through Chaplin’s rise to stardom and through his later years, filled with political accusations and declining health and life. Included in this walk is the often repeated cycle of seduction, marriage, and divorce which left a trail of recriminations and mental and emotional stress in his life. But Ackroyd, I think, balances this presentation with a helpful review of Chaplin’s artistic and commercial successes in the cinematic world with a critical eye of Chaplin’s films.
Charlie Chaplin: A Brief Life (Nan A. Talese) is a brief introduction to a legendary actor and director that provides a blunt and yet fascinating glimpse into one of the 20th century’s stars. I liked this book more for the fascinating depiction of the early days of film and Chaplin’s groundbreaking and meticulous work as an actor and director than for anything else.
I rate this book a “good” read.
Note: I received a galley copy of this book from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review.